Session ends with ‘sweeping change’
THE 2014 LOUISIANA LEGISLATIVE session saw sweeping change to state policy. A number of new laws were introduced and a num- ber of changes were made to ex- isting ones. As usual, areas such as public education, abortion, the rights of LGBT individuals and healthcare were front and center. As usual, there were pas- sionate advocates on both sides of each issue.
As is often the case in Louisiana, there were several bills regarding repro- ductive rights and sex education. One of the most highly publicized bill was HB 388 which was sponsored by District 16 State Representative Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) out of Monroe. The legisla- tion seeks to require that any doctor who performs an abortion at an abortion clinic must have admitting privileges at a hospi- tal within 30 miles of that site. The legis- lation passed and, if signed
into law by governor Jindal, would force three of thestate’s five abortion clinics to close.
Perhaps the most controversial bill involving pregnancy was legislation presented by State Representative Austin Badon (D)
that would mandate that brain dead women who are pregnant must remain on life support if they are at least 20 weeks pregnant in spite of wishes to the contrary by the family or that woman herself.
Other bills related to the life of the unborn include measures to block sex educators who are affiliated with any organization that supports or provides abortions from entering pub- lic schools and legislation that will require women considering abortions to undergo evaluation and have certain information presented to them. All of these bills passed and are awaiting the signature of Governor Jindal. Three bills by Rep. Pat Smith
(D-Baton Rouge) regarding sex education failed in committee.
This session was also an event- ful one in regards to issues facing LGBT citizens. There were three pieces of leg- islation that directly addressed the population. First was a bill presented by Rep. Jared Brosett (D-New Orleans) that would prohibit discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation in gender identity. It failed in the House Commerce Committee.
There was also legislation introduced by Smith that would remove un- constitutional “anti sodomy” laws from Louisiana state law as well as local ordinances. While the bill did pass in committee, it ultimately died on the house floor. Finally, there was legislation introduced to prohibit employment discrimination in Louisiana. However, the legislation was pulled by Rep. Karen St. Germain (D-Plaquemine) who sponsored it because she felt that it would not have the adequate support.
With a national debate over marijuana in full swing, it was in- evitable that the debate would play out on a state level as well. There was a series of bills proposed from both chambers that would change state policy regarding the drug. Notable efforts include a bill by Senator Fred Mills (R-New Iberia) that would allow for the medical use of marijuana in certain situations and a bill that would reduce criminal penalties for marijuana when the amount was less than 28 grams. All efforts to change existing state law as it relates to marijuana failed.
Not surprisingly based on Gov- ernor Jindal’s adamant opposition in months prior to session Medicaid expansion did not pass on the state level. Senator Bill Nevers (D- Bogalusa) proposed legislation to let the voters decide whether or not they wanted it. The bill died in the Senate health committee.
Other notable legislation include efforts to get Louisiana pay day lenders to cap interest rates—which did not pass—and a bill that would change the way schools are penalized for not meeting Common Core standards—that did pass.
By Terry Young Jr